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The Wonder Boy from Belgium
by Stefan Mertens
is a little village in the shadow of Europe's main city of Brussels. If
you're driving the highway from Wemmel to Merchtem, don't drive too fast
or Brussegem has passed on your right side. Brussegem-once you have found
it, you'd think that you'd find the street Eeckhoutveldweg immediately.
Well, you're wrong. Personally, I recommend that the fanciers who want
to visit Eric Limbourg should go by daylight, so that they can ask the
way. I still remember the first time that I visited Eric. It was a dark,
rainy evening, and I couldn't find Eeckhoutveldweg Street. Luckily, there
was a man, dressed in a raincoat, walking with his dog. "The Eeckhoutveldweg,
sir?" "The what," he asked, wondering what strange guy is asking the way.
"The Eeckhoutveldweg," I said a little bit louder. "I don't know that
street," he answered. "I'm looking for Eric Limbourg," I said quickly.
He replied, "Yes…Eric, the pigeon fancier. I know him. It is not that
Eric is known in Belgium as "The Wonder Boy." He is one of those fanciers who can motivate pigeons like no other fancier. When he points out a race, then his competitors are warned because he will be certainly at the top of the result sheet. Last season Cahors was marked on the calendar, but due to the very bad weather, Cahors became a disaster, with a few birds home on the day of liberation and a lot of top birds lost. Eric also lost a lot of top birds. Due to that disastrous race, the program for the widowers was turned upside down and now the team had to be re-motivated. Everything was put on the last race, namely Perpignan, a distance of 924 km. Now there were no weather problems and the Limbourg pigeons put a real world-class result on paper. Against 7,320 pigeons they won 1st-4th-5th national.
THE STOCKLOFT IS VERY IMPORTANT
Top pigeons come out of top pigeons, that's true, but pair two supers with each other and you're not guaranteed to breed top pigeons. Eric says, "I don't buy a pigeons like I buy bread, even if it is the best racer in the world. I want the input of my hands and head. I want to feel if there is any possibility to cross such pigeons with my base-birds. If I want to buy a pigeon, I first look at the results. These are very important. On which race are the top results made? Which weather? And so on. Then I look at the pedigree. I don't look at well-known names. No, I monitor whether the family also made some good results. But finally, it is my 'first impression' that decides if I buy the pigeon, yes or no. I love a complete pigeon-good wing, good eyes, well muscled, etc. If there is a little flaw in the bird, I don't mind, because I am already thinking of a partner to put with that bird so that the flaw will be bred out through complementary breeding."
"Which breeding method do I follow in my loft?" Eric ponders. "Well, as a base I still have the strain of my pigeons 'Motta,' 'Tamme,' 'Dolle,' 'La Souterraine,' and 'Meulemans,' a strain which I know very well. Now, when I buy a pigeon, I always pair that cock or hen with a pigeon of my baseain. If I get good results, then I have made a very good investment. Otherwise, the pigeon and their youngsters have to be selected out as soon as possible. This involves a lot of breeding. If necessary, pair them with other hens or cocks, race them a lot, and make a very heavy selection. Everybody knows it, but only a few do it."
"How does the ideal stockbird look?" Eric says. "Personally, I prefer them a little bit big, with soft feathers and an eye with 'character.' The color of the eye doesn't matter. Hens that look like their cocks are ideal to do complementary breeding. But, really, who knows?"
The racing season for the widowers is closed after Perpignan, which is raced the first weekend of August. When the pigeons come home from the race, they stay with their hen and they may brood twice, but they don't breed any youngsters. At the beginning of October, the pigeons are separated again, and a resting period begins in the program. In this period, medication is forbidden, and most of the time the pigeons stay in the loft. They don't fly out that much. At mid-December, the old widowers are coupled again, and now they can breed a couple of youngsters. Before a second nest is started, the hens and youngsters are separated. Eric explains, "I handle it this way because I don't want the pigeons to moult quickly. After breeding those youngsters, the widowers aren't coupled again for the racing season, so they are already on widowhood beginning in February."
Eric's yearbirds brood only two times before the racing season starts, once for ten days in February and again for three days in April. He explains, "I can easily work like this because the old and yearbirds are sitting in different lofts."
It's important that the first training flights of the widowers are made in two groups. The old pigeons have already had their first training flights in March, while the yearbirds start in April when they are chasing their hen. Eric says, "This is an ideal way to teach them good manners."
Limbourg's landing boards
Clocking entrance for the young birds
"Jonge Black Opium"
UP TO THE NEXT RACE
"You can compare pigeons best with athletes," Eric explains. "Feeding, training, the rhythm of competition-those are all elements that determine winning or losing. Everything starts with healthy pigeons. To work on that, we first vaccinate all birds as a preventative for paratyphus. Before coupling, they are treated against trichomoniasis and ornithosis. Once the racing season starts I begin this schedule: The day of arrival, I treat with a disinfectant product from a vet. The following two days I cure against trichomoniasis and ornithosis. Then, as basketing day approaches, I use vitamins and extra proteins for a few days. The products that I use all come from specialized vets."
"I always watch when the widowers are training," Eric continues. "A team that is in full condition for the next race trains separately. The widowers who are still in recuperation are not disturbing the others. To build up the training is important. The first three days after a race, the training is without any obligation with open windows. The other days they always train with closed windows. Pigeons in condition like to train. You see that they're in top condition."
"Pigeons who 'sleep' are never winners. I like to see birds with vitality," Eric continues. "That's why I like the 'quicker' bird and not the calm long-distance bird. I want to basket a bird with top motivation, practically willing to die during the race. How I motivate the widowers? About motivation, there is one very important rule-never do the same thing twice. The first time that the old birds see their hen is before Vierzon, at the end of May. Afterwards the hen is always shown in different ways: Once one hen for the whole loft, once different hens, once the cocks are closed in the box and the hens are free, etc. I also try to motivate a widower by giving him some extra territory. Let him be angry at another bird, but be sure the he never wins or loses. Motivation is very dangerous-it is top prize or none."
Here we're talking about the national victory followed with other top results. As already mentioned, Eric got an "uppercut" on the national race from Cahors. The bad weather caused a lot of losses, and as with a lot of other lofts, there were a lot of empty boxes. Other fanciers would say that the season is finished because the team spirit is gone. But if your name is Eric Limbourg, then you're a "fighter"-a top athlete who is coaching his team to the next top result. The condition of the widowers was good, and as extra motivation the empty boxes from the lost Cahors racers were opened three days before basketing. What followed was a real battle. Every box was taken by one of the other widowers, and if possible they would take two or three boxes. In such situations the fancier must stay in the lofts a good deal, because otherwise there is a lot of blood on the wall. As an extra motivation, the hens came into the loft a half day. The result was that Eric went with super-motivated pigeons to Perpignan.
April 21-Noyon (177 km)
202 old pigeons: 1-2-7-20-23-30-31-34 etc. (44)
May 4-Dourdan (325 km)
194 old pigeons: 1-2-9-16-25-26-27 etc. (37)
May 18-Vierzon (444 km)
818 old pigeons: 1-8-15-20-30-32 etc. (53)
5,966 old pigeons: 3-34-83-101-138-158
318 year pigeons: 1-5-6-9-10-12-15-16-17-19 etc. (46)
759 year pigeons: 1-8-9-14-15-21-26-27-29-30 etc.
national-23,957 old pigeons: 167-706 etc.
national-16,950 yearbirds: 73-371-437-519-542 etc.
June 1-Brive (640 km)
670 old pigeons: 1-3-4-5-7-9-12-17-20-26-32-33 etc. (43)
2,209 old pigeons: 1-7-8-9-12-15-25-38-43-53 etc.
national-25,352 old pigeons: 100-614-619-635 etc.
June 8-Angouleme (675 km)
207 old pigeons: 1-2-4-9-15-20-23-33-34 etc. (28)
3,986 old pigeons: 9-19-32-115 etc.
1,092 yearbirds: 3-4-10-13-36-54 etc. (36)
June 15-Cahors (770 km)
140 old pigeons: 2-3-4-6-8-10-11-12-13-15-19 (50)
national-11,211 old pigeons: 35-107-229-568 etc.
June 15-Tours (470 km)
230 old pigeons: 1-13-41 (4)
June 29-Montauban (810 km)
157 old pigeons: 1-5-26-30 (16)
national-6,711 old pigeons: 21-251 etc.
2,230 yearbirds: 3-79-85-160-166-235 etc.
July 14-Blois (430 km)
243 pigeons: 2-3-5-8-13-14-18-20-25 etc. (55)
1,794 yearbirds: 1-81-110
July 27-Beziers (851 km)
147 pigeons: 1-2-4-5-6-7-10-12-13-14 etc. (28)
1,205 pigeons: 2-19-25-44-45-47-64-66-75 etc.
national-3529 pigeons: 23-85-108-144-146-148-183 etc.
August 4-Perpignan (924 km)
240 old birds: 1-2-3-8-14-17-30-39-40 etc. (24)
892 old birds: 1-3-4-23-50-62 etc.
national-7320 pigeons: 1-4-5 etc.
August 10-Argenton (525 km)
198 youngsters: 1-2-4-9-15-16-27-28 etc. (22)
1,851 youngsters: 5-7-13-58-104-117 etc.
4,571 youngsters: 12-17-29-100-193-212 etc.
405 youngsters: 2-3-6-7-8-10-12-17-31-33 etc. (24)
196 youngsters: 2-4-5-7-11-12 etc. (6)
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2nd Dourdan 303 p.
2nd Blois 4,276 p.
1st Argenton 297 p.
83rd Argenton 4 689 p.
15th La Souterraine 212 p.
8th Noyon 293 p.
149th Bourges 5,272 p.
3rd Chateauroux 344 p.
1st Argenton 305 p.
62nd Argenton 9,864 p.
8th Limoges 333 p.
130th Limoges 8,256 p.
1st Dourdan 562 p.
3rd Dourdan 135 p.
8th Vierzon 329 p.
6th Brive 346 p.
30th Brive 2,570 p.
4th Cahors 175 p.
35th Cahors 3,476 p.
1st Souillac 158 p.
15th Souillac 2,515 p.
8th Blois 123 p.
JONGE VOORUIT 2017800/99
4th Dourdan 279 p.
1st Dourdan 289 p.
79th La Souterraine 4,669 p.
1st Noyon 301 p.
4th Chateauroux 272 p.
8th Chateauroux 10,295 p.
1st La Souterraine 308 p.
89th La Souterraine 7,089 p.
2nd Limoges 442 p.
46th Limoges 8,715 p.
2nd Narbonne 107 p.
13th Narbonne 6,929 p.
1st Chateauroux 456 p.
6th Chateauroux 9,603 p.
2nd Argenton 305 p.
85th Argenton 9,864 p.
9th Limoges 333 p.
142nd Limoges 8,256 p.
1st national Narbonne 8,204 p.
2nd Vierzon 329 p.
143rd Vierzon 14,596 p.
2nd Souillac 158 p.
24th Souillac 2,515 p.
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